A Louisiana Marshal is going to jail for willfully violating public records law, and court orders to comply.
Lafayette’s top cop the elected City Marshal Brian Pope, was sentenced to 30 days under key with all but 7 of them suspended, for blatantly violating Louisiana’s open records law.
The Lousiana lawman will also have to pay more than $100,000 in attorneys fees, court costs and fines related to withholding records from The Independent, a local publication.
Pope will also have to perform 173 hours of public service, one hour for each day he withheld records about his use of public office to endorse a candidate for County Sheriff and initiate an unusual press conference accusing the candidate of encouraging illegal immigration.
City Marshal Pope specific punishment is to have to teach about the state’s public records law for 173 hours.
Maybe some of that teaching will sink into the teacher too.
As local outlets reported, Marshal Pope withheld records even after a court ordered their release, leading to a judge finding that he’d “willfully and obstinately” failed to comply and showed up armed and in uniform to court in contravention of court rules too, leading presiding Judge Jules Edwards III to opine thusly from the bench from his written opinion:
“There is a long-standing rule in this court that law enforcement officers who are the named parties in litigation are not allowed to come into the courtroom while armed and in uniform,” Edwards read from his ruling. “The rationale for this rule is the safety of the bailiffs and prevention of witness intimidation. The marshal’s conduct in this regard is another example of his apparent attitude that he is above the law.”
But Pope’s candidate for Sheriff lost, and while the Judge in the case only settled the public records case issues, as is often the case in these sort of public interest lawsuits, obtaining the public records is a pre-cursor to a subsequent corruption investigation.
Judge Edwards continued to say:
“The events that gave rise to this litigation may serve as ground to investigate Marshal Pope for various crimes such as perjury, malfeasance, and others,” Edwards said. “This court specifically did not and could not consider those questions because the marshal has not been formally charged with those offenses.”
The legal decision arrived barely a week after Brian Pope made local headlines hiring controversial cop Clay Higgins, who is also known as the Cajun John Wayne, and who PINAC News’ Theresa Richard interviewed last October.
Pope must be shocked by the verdict, because judging by his hiring of Clay Higgins, the Lafayette City Marshal planned his department to get a whole lot more press attention.
Just not this kind of negative coverage.
Or maybe he thinks Higgins will make a good Public Relations representative, but Pope obviously didn’t notice the video blogging ex-sheriff’s deputy’s last failed attempt at going viral.
Higgins did go viral, but for all the wrong reasons after making the infamous “War on Gangbangers” video this past February.
Now his new boss is also going viral for the wrong reasons.
Higgins, the so-called ‘Cajun John Wayne’, actually resigned from his Sheriff’s department job just over a week after releasing the infamous viral video.
And Pope couldn’t resist making the high profile hire.
Just in time.
Pope will get just a little more time to enjoy Higgins’ company too, as Judge Edwards did grant post-conviction bail to the City Marshall of only $500 as the convicted cop appeals the decision to a higher court.
So his incarceration hasn’t yet begun as planned, yet.
Judge Edwards also added an extra $9,000 to Pope’s tab for The Indepdendent’s cost of hiring a computer expert too.
City Marshal Pope probably needs to save a few dollars to hire some expert legal counsel for himself, if he’s planning on remaining in public affairs after this fiasco is completed, or before a criminal trial starts.
While Pope hasn’t criminally been charged yet, he’s likely to face more legal action after testifying in a recorded deposition according to The Advertiser that:
He used the resources of his public office, specifically the personnel of the Lafayette City Marshal, to prepare a fundraising mailing package for his personal campaign ventures. When questioned about the matter by The Independent’s attorney, Gary McGoffin, Pope responded, “Because I’m a political figure. I mean, I can use my office for my campaign.”
He added in the deposition that it was acceptable to use public funds for his campaign because “everyone does it.”
Judge Edwards isn’t letting Pope walk free without any penalty just yet though.
City Marshal Brian Pope has posted a $150,000 appeals bond as he takes his case up the legal ladder, so at least we know that once the last motion has been filed, newsmen at The Independent and taxpayers won’t be on the hook for the lawman’s tremendous legal bill.
Both news outlet and citizens might celebrate though, the day Marshal Pope is finally jailed for breaking the law.